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XL Video complete record breaking corporate event

XL Video was poised to supply the NEC’s largest ever sit down meal event, 'Thomson’s Festive Fiesta' for 5, 800 people, with full video, audio and lighting production and technical services on 14 December, when the Buncefield fuel storage depot in Hemel Hempstead exploded at 6:03 am on Sunday 11 2005.
Injuring 43 people but miraculously with no loss of life, this triggered the UK’s largest peacetime inferno, raging for three days.
XL’s warehouse, located just 600 metres from the epicentre of the explosion, was damaged in the blast, and the entire area was sealed off, including the truck full of gear destined for the Thomson event.
XL project manager Phil Goddard, who lives 22 miles away, was awoken by the blast. Shortly after, he received a call from XL’s John Hooker saying that they had “a problem”.
A series of frantic communications followed throughout Sunday, XL’s Emergency Plan, to allow the company to continue working during unforeseen circumstances, was activated when they realised the trucks couldn’t leave the warehouse and that they wouldn’t be able to access their premises for an unspecified period.
Even under normal circumstances, it was challenging to get so much production in place so quickly for such a massive show, but Buncefield added a completely new set of parameters.
XL was working for David Davenport’s Form Communications on The Festive Fiesta, which took place in Halls 6, 7 and 8 of the NEC.
Post explosion, they called in favours from industry friends, colleagues and even their competitors, all of whom responded to ensure the show went on.
Goddard, and XL’s Head of Sound Rob Cornish quickly established what kit was available from where to fill the holes on one of the industry’s busiest weeks of the year.
Within hours, they’d redesigned the event’s entire sound and video production – which had taken three weeks of meticulous planning - based on what kit could be transported to site in time.
Wigwam supplied a VDOSC sound system, and Cloud One supplied a Martin line array for the funfair area. MCL in Birmingham was able to supply a small OB truck, PPU, 4-way camera system, two 20ft flown screens and 4 Barco R12s for IMAG projection which was rigged by XL’s site crew.
SSE supplied all the audio control gear, racks and comms for the main hall dining and stage area including a Yamaha PM5D FOH console and a Soundcraft 48 channel monitor console for the bands appearing on the 38 metre wide stage.
The site crew were supplied by XL Video, as was lighting designer Paul Yates, with all lighting equipment sub-hired from Neg Earth. Under the circumstances, NEL turned up and could start their get in ahead of schedule, while the XL team endeavoured to source enough sound and AV gear to stage the rest of the show to their rigorous standards.
Kenilworth-based Stagepoint were supplying the staging to XL as part of their complete technical package, and they too were able work to the original production schedule alongside XL’s overall production manager, Tim Hudson.
Despite everything, the Thompson’s Festive Fiesta production was ready to roll in time for doors on the Wednesday morning.

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